By Andrea Bartels CNP NNCP RNT
04 Oct 2018
Is your immune system healthy? If you are prone to colds or the flu during colder months then your immune system is in sub-optimal condition. Don't despair! An accumulating body of research shows that if you supplement vitamin D you may reduce your risk of infection.
How does it work?
Most of us have heard that our skin makes vitamin D with exposure to UV light from the sun. However, it needs to be converted to an active, useable form of vitamin D before it does us any good. Once converted, vitamin D's immune-building benefits stem from its ability to alter the function of most tissues. Specifically, vitamin D appears to increase the production of specialized proteins that provide a natural defense against disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
Ear, Nose, Throat and Skin Infections
Adequate vitamin D status is associated with improved resistance to infections as well as healing of infections. In addition, low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). In addition, tuberculosis of the skin was successfully treated in the early 20th century with ultra-violet light---the same wavelength of light that stimulates vitamin D production in the skin.
Even other types of infection may be linked to low vitamin D status. In a study of 469 pregnant women, lower blood levels of vitamin D were associated with higher incidence of bacterial vaginosis-a relatively common vaginal infection for expectant women.
Kids Need Vitamin D, Too.
In a pediatric respiratory health study of 197 children, the acute lower respiratory infections (ALRIs) of bronchiolitis and pneumonia were correlated with low vitamin D status. Specifically, the average vitamin D level for infected children admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit was significantly lower than that observed for both the control (non-infected) group and ALRI subjects who were admitted to the general pediatrics ward. This suggests that taking a vitamin D supplement could have a protective effect.
Food is Not Enough. So how much vitamin D should a person take?
The highest sources of vitamin D are fish liver oil (not fish oil) and organ meats. While cow's milk is fortified with vitamin D, it is not a naturally high source. Meanwhile, our skin's ability to manufacture it depends on age, skin colour and of course, how much time you spend in sunshine.
Some of the most recognized vitamin D researchers, such as Dr.Vieth, Dr,Holick and Dr.Bischoff-Ferrari agree that a minimum 25(OH)D blood concentration of 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) appears necessary to experience the multitude of beneficial health effects of the vitamin. Depending on your health status, it may take as little as 400 i.u. or as much as 4,000 i.u. of vitamin D consumption daily to reach these optimal levels.
Ask your doctor to measure your blood levels of vitamin D to find out if what you're getting is adequate for disease prevention or management. It will only set you back around $30 to find out. If you fail the test in Ontario, you won't have to pay for the follow up measurement. Be sure to ask for a copy of the result to find out your actual blood levels.
Vitamin D is just one of many nutrients involved in creating a healthy immune system. Taking a daily supplement of Pure Lab's Vitamin D is an inexpensive, obvious choice for immune support, year-round.
Shah S, Islam MN, Dakshanamurthy S, et al. The molecular basis of vitamin D receptor and betacatenin crossregulation. Mol Cell 2006;21:799-809.
Bartley J Vitamin D, innate immunity and upper respiratory tract infection. J Laryngol Otol. 2010 Jan 13:1-5.
McNally JD, Leis K, Matheson LA, Karuananyake C, Sankaran K, Rosenberg AM. Vitamin D deficiency in young children with severe acute lower respiratory infection. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2009 Oct;44(10):981-8.
Bodnar LM, Krohn MA, Simhan. Maternal vitamin D deficiency is associated with bacterial vaginosis in the first trimester of pregnancy. HN.J Nutr. 2009 Jun;139(6):1157-61.
Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med 2007;357:266-281.
Vieth R. What is the optimal vitamin D status for health? Prog Biophys Mol Biol 2006;92:26-32.
Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Giovannucci E, Willett WC et al. Estimation of optimal serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D for multiple health outcomes. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:18-28. Erratum in: Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:1253. dosage error in abstract. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:809.
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